Fitness Measures Among Boy Scouts Completing the Personal Fitness Merit Badge

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Introduction: A formative framework for positive lifestyle and health behaviors is established during adolescence. The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) is one organization that promotes healthy lifestyles among adolescent males and includes earning the Personal Fitness Merit Badge (PFMB). Despite the BSA Oath "to keep myself physically strong", there is a paucity of evidence describing fitness test (FT) outcomes or correlations between FT and variables including age or body mass index (BMI) among Boy Scouts. Therefore, the purpose of this study is to describe and correlate FT to age and BMI among adolescent Boy Scouts.

Methods: A prospective study design recruited Boy Scouts aged 11-17 years from Southeast Michigan using a sample of convenience. After securing physician clearance to participate, FT measures were performed utilizing previously established methodology. Third year doctor of physical therapy students trained in the measurement protocol performed the FT measures. Measures encompassed those required for the PFMB: BMI, pull-ups, push-ups, sit and reach flexibility test (SRF), sit-ups, and the one mile run (1MR). Data was analyzed using descriptive statistics, a Kruskal-Wallis test examined relationships between BMI and FT, and a nonparametric Spearman correlation examined correlations between FT performance and both age and BMI with statistical significance set at less than 0.05.

Results: Ninety-nine Boy Scouts, whose mean age was 12.6 years (SD 1.4), met the inclusion criteria. The mean BMI was 21.5 (kg/height (cm)) 2 (SD 5.4) with eight scouts meeting criteria of underweight, 56 normal weight, 14 overweight, and 21 obese. Fitness test results were as follows: pull-ups 1.75 (SD 2.7), push-ups 18.0 (SD 10.6), SRF 21.2 cm (SD 10.5), sit-ups 28.9 (SD 8.7), and the 1MR run 616.5 seconds (SD 156.8). When comparing normal weight scouts to overweight and obese scouts, a significantly higher frequency of pull-ups (p=0.002, p=.001), push-ups (p=0.02, p=0.03), sit-ups (p=0.01, p=0.003,), and decreased time for completion on the 1MR (p=0.001, p=0.001) was identified, respectively. Furthermore, while no correlations were identified by age, a negative correlation was identified between increased sit-up frequency (r=-0.36, p=0.001) and decreased 1MR time performance (r=0.39, p=0.001) and a higher BMI.

Discussion: While prior evidence suggests improved FT scores in adolescent males with advancing age, this was not observed. Less favorable PFMB required FT performance with an increased BMI among Boy Scouts is in congruence with prior reports for adolescent males.

Conclusion: Variations in FT performance levels were observed among Boy Scouts completing the initial FT requirements of the PFMB. However, correlations between higher BMI and less favorable FT performance were detected.

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